Is Strategy Like a Diet, or Is It a Lifestyle?

It may now be passé to mention, but if you recall the popularity of the Atkins Diet, you will recall the key to its success was a commitment to adjust one’s lifestyle to lose weight. The theory, or science, behind the diet was a commitment to transform eating habits to the Atkins lifestyle.

In the same way, business leaders need to change their thinking about the role strategy plays in their business. In our experience, it is not uncommon to find CEOs that continue to view strategic planning as a once-a-year event, or worse, a once every few years exercise. In our opinion, this approach is a recipe for failure. Initially, there might be excitement and buy-in for the work to be done, but, this excitement is quickly dampened by the demands of the day job. The urgency of day-to-day responsibilities will eclipse any important strategic work every time without consistent and predictable reinforcement. Old habits die hard, as they say.

Like the Atkins Diet, Strategy Management, the process that engages every level of the organization and makes strategy a part of everyone’s day-to-day responsibility, is a dynamic and continuous process. It needs to become a fundamental part of an organization’s day-to- day decision-making, and evolve as part of the business lifestyle.

Recent studies show that 70% of companies do not achieve the full value of their strategic plan. That is a scary statistic. The reason for this weak performance is the lack of time and resources dedicated working on strategic projects, and measuring progress against 3 to 5 year strategic objectives. Keeping strategy at the forefront of everyone’s agenda makes it a priority within the organization. We recommend:

Monthly, check-in on progress against strategic projects important to long term success.
Quarterly, challenge past assumptions, react to new information emerging from customer and competitor, and make adjustments as needed in real time.

This kind of vigilance requires a business “lifestyle” mindset that many organizations struggle to understand. Like a diet, it’s not easy to give up old habits, yet we know eating fewer calories and the right foods will make us healthier. The same is true for Strategy Management and the long term benefit is improved performance and a healthier organization.